NASA's Planet Hunting TESS Satellite Captures Image of Comet

Christopher Davidson
August 10, 2018

Banner image: This sequence is compiled from a series of images taken on July 25 by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite. It now lies roughly 29 million miles (48 million kilometers) from Earth, in a section of the constellation Piscis Austrinus.

Launched in April, TESS took a series of images of the comet C/2018 N1, over the course of 17 hours on July 25 - the day the planet hunter officially commenced its science operations, the USA space agency said in a statement.

Over the course of these tests, Tess took images of C/2018 N1, a comet discovered by Nasa's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) satellite on June 29.

The comet, which is pretty obvious in the images, is speeding through space with its bright tail shift and changing directions due to the effects of the solar wind coming from the Sun.

Tess took photos of other astronomical activities like where the stars appear to shift between white and black as a result of image precessing. The grainy-looking bits that don't move are other stars.

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Towards the end of the video, a faint broad arc of light moving across the middle section of the frame from left to right can be seen.

Astronomers were also able to glimpse a group of asteroids zipping in the distance, only visible in the sped-up boomerang clip at the end of the video.

But in that very first day, it made its first serendipitous observation: a comet brightly streaking through space that crossed its field of view, according to the space agency. This ability is critical in the search for alien planets, which is the primary goal of NASA's advanced satellite. It will attempt to do this by spotting the dips in brightness of distant stars as planets pass in front of them. Transits are indicative of a planet orbiting the star, causing a temporary flicker in the brightness.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) and its latest planet-hunting probe Tess has caught a comet in motion.

The TESS mission is expected to last two years and will transmit data back to Earth every 13.5 days-once per orbit. "Now that we know there are more planets than stars in our universe, I look forward to the unusual, fantastic worlds we're bound to discover".

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